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Isaiah Jackson may return to UK if not a lottery lock: Where current mocks project him

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With Jackson leaving the door open for a return, here’s where he stands in the latest mock drafts as he debates his next step. 

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It came as no surprise Wednesday when Kentucky Wildcats freshman Isaiah Jackson declared for the NBA Draft. It was a surprise, however, that he stated he will not yet hire an agent while going through the draft process.

With the door still open for a return, Kyle Tucker of the Athletic reports that Jackson wants to be a lottery pick, and if not, a return to Lexington is possible.

So, if Jackson gets feedback that suggests he’s likely going to be a lottery pick, he’s gone. But if there’s a good chance he won’t go that high, it sounds like returning to Kentucky is a very real option.

With Jackson’s desire to be a lottery selection in mind, here’s where the All-SEC Freshman and Defensive Team honoree stands in some of the latest mock drafts.

The Athletic: 17th overall, Oklahoma City Thunder

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has Jackson falling just outside the lottery and going 17th to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a pick the Thunder landed from the Miami Heat.

“Jackson has really helped himself late in the year,” Vecenie wrote. “It took him some time to get his feet wet, as he missed a lot of rotations on defense early and struggled to make an impact in a Kentucky offense that struggled with spacing. But by the time February rolled around, Jackson was terrific.”

NBC Sports: 20th overall, New York Knicks

NBC Sports’ James Ham also has Jackson just outside of the lottery going 20th to the New York Knicks where he’d join a collection of former Wildcats.

“Jackson has a natural ability to hunt and divert shots, Ham writes. “In the right situation, this could be a Dennis Rodman type player. He’s a hot mess on offense, but what Jackson can do on a court is pure instincts. If you can teach him some basic pick-and-roll sets and get him in the weight room, this could be a game changing steal.

It’s also worth noting Ham predicts Brandon Boston to be selected 16th overall by the Charlotte Hornets.

UPROXX: 18th overall, Toronto Raptors

Like the first two mocks, Brad Rowland of UPROXX has Jackson falling just outside the lottery, going 18th overall to the Toronto Raptors.

“Jackson is a big-time athlete with good traits and a high-end motor,” Rowland writes. “It is tough, at least for me, to see lottery upside, but there are some even more bullish than this. Toronto still doesn’t have a big man of the future, and this would be a solid buy point on Jackson.”

Rookie Wire Consensus Mock Draft: 25th overall, Brooklyn Nets

This projection is actually a roundup from NBA mock drafts and big boards from For The Win, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and NBA Draft Room. Jackson is barely holding on to being a first-round pick in this, as he falls all the way to 25th overall.

What’s all this mean?

These predictions signal Jackson is in the mix for a late lottery selection meaning positive feedback and a strong combine performance could send him to the NBA. Even if he doesn’t end up a projected lottery pick, however, being selected just afterward could be too much to pass up on for the 6-foot-10 defensive specialist.